For beginner and intermediate surfers alike, traveling to the stunning town of Nosara is one of the best ways to up your skill level.
There are thousands of surf schools in the world that can get you up and riding for the first time. They teach the basics, and then for the most part, set you off on your own. For aspiring pros there are high-level surf coaches, but what about the rest of us?
For us surfers who are stuck somewhere in the middle—and for first-timers, too—traveling to the stunning town of Nosara in Costa Rica is one of the best places to learn how to surf. Here you’ll find a small but well-known school, Surf Simply, a haven for bringing your skills up to the next level. Between the highest-quality coaching, to the absolutely gorgeous beaches and mouth-watering local food, it’s hard to imagine a better surf vacation spot.
Choosing a Nosara surf school
Guiones, which has some of the most consistent surf conditions in the world, offers excellent waves and bathtub-warm water all year round. The gold standard of surf schools in the area, Surf Simply is a week-long, intensive surf program that doubles as an all-inclusive resort; the team behind the resort scoured the globe for the best places to open a surf school and landed here. While there are amenities aplenty, what makes Surf Simply stand out is the coaching and education. I originally discovered it via its YouTube channel where its tutorials are available to anyone.
As a visitor, each day guests have two 90-minute surf sessions, filmed from multiple angles, with a coach. You’ll review your footage each day as a part of the teaching methodology, which is supplemented by daily classes as well as lectures covering everything from breath-hold technique to surfboard design and wave forecasting. The Surf Simply program is limited to just 12 surfers per week (plus up to four non-surfing guests) who will stay onsite at the modern 10-room property nestled in the forest, a short walk from Playa Guiones.
And there are plenty of other schools nearby, too. The closest adult and kid-friendly option (Surf Simply doesn’t allow children under 16) is Ten Toes Surf, which was started by a former Surf Simply coach and employs many of the same techniques. There’s also the women-focused Mindful Waves program, which centers around all-female surfing in a supportive environment.
I arrived at Surf Simply as an intermediate surfer—a vague term that probably encompasses the majority of surfers in the world. I had been hung up on the same plateau for years. The other students staying the week I was there (ages 21 to 72) ranged from first-timers to experts. Everyone received hyper-specific notes to work on from coaches, and I could almost see people improve in real-time. The coaches are all incredibly fluid, eloquent, and high-level surfers themselves, and they all teach from the Tree of Knowledge, a sort of surf-progression flowchart.
Vacation-esque recovery is baked-in, too, with two sublime massages included, as well as a pool and hot tub, an unlimited fridge full of fresh coconuts to drink from, plus two dinners at local restaurants. Onsite meals prepared by Surf Simply’s kitchen staff are also included, and the food is among the best in town. The menu changes based on what’s fresh and seasonal; it’s healthy and flavorful, and they can accommodate any dietary restriction imaginable. Tips and airport transfers are all included as well, and at the end of the week you take all of your video footage home with you, along with a collection of eye-popping, professional photos.
Getting to Nosara, Costa Rica
The town of Nosara is on the Nicoya Peninsula, in the northwestern region of Costa Rica. The closest airports are Liberia (roughly 2.5 hours by car) and San Jose (roughly five to six hours by car). The roads can get a bit rough as you get more remote, especially in the rainy season (May through November). Nosara itself is a mellow place, and known as laid-back alternative to Tamarindo that’s for more serious surfers—but it still has a wealth of comfortable hotels and authentic restaurants to choose from.
Nosara has a distinctive surf-town feel, and it has a high density of female surfers in the lineup. While Spanish is, of course, the primarily language, English is commonly spoken, and U.S. dollars are widely accepted in addition to Costa Rican colones. There are plenty of places to rent boards in town, and some hotels (including Surf Simply) even provide boards for you to use during your stay. If you decide to bring your own board, both airports are very accommodating toward surfers, but make sure to look up your airline’s policy around checking surfboards, and make sure you have a bag with plenty of padding.
Where to eat in Nosara
If you want to venture off-resort for a night out, the best fine dining in town is at Huacas inside the Tierra Magnifica hotel, which has one of the best cocktail and wine programs in the area and live music on Friday nights; Chef Paulo Valerios is an absolute star on the rise, taking authentic Costa Rican ingredients, flavors, and recipes from local grandmas, and elevating them to a fine-dining level. Closer to the beach is Howler’s Beach Lounge, an al fresco spot that has the best carpaccio and fish tacos in town, plus Costa Rican microbrews on tap.
The best breakfast spot in town is Destiny Café & Restaurant, which is close to the beach and features inventive pastries. The smoothie bar at the Harmony Hotel is another local institution. For seafood in laid-back setting Pacifico Azul does it just right; the mahi mahi is tender and perfectly seasoned. For authentic Tico (meaning Costa Rican) food, check out Celajes Restaurante; locally owned, its casados (traditional dinner plates featuring meat, veggies, beans, and rice) are the real deal. And lastly, if you’re looking for a gorgeous sunset over the water, La Luna beachfront restaurant is the move, but come hungry because the portions are absolutely massive.
When you’re ready to be a bit further from the surf, the aforementioned Tierra Magnifica is one of the crown jewels of Nosara. With a mountain top view of the entire bay, you almost feel like you’re in a high-end treehouse in the jungle. Included daily yoga classes are supplemented with the calls of songbirds and howler monkeys. Of course, if you’d still like to surf you’re just a 10-minute drive from Playa Guiones, and Tierra Magnifica has partnered with the Gilded Iguana Surf Club, so you’ll always have a locker, towel, and a freshly waxed board waiting for you. It was the perfect place to unwind after a week of putting my body to the test.